Being "busy" has become a sign of prestige. Have you recently asked someone, "How are you?" only to have them reply, "Busy!"
Well, let's get things straight: busy is not a state of being. Though somehow, we have come to use this word as a badge of honor and wear it with pride. Yet it's having damaging effects.
We've confused our sense of inherent value with busyness. We believe that being busy is the same as being important, sought after or committed in our pursuits.
Fueling this belief is the underlying fear that maybe we're actually not so important or valuable. If we were to slow down and listen to these insecurities, we'd be scared about what we'd discover. So to mute these fearful thoughts, we chase all external opportunities, thinking that by pushing ourselves, overcommitting, and just doing a lot, then we'll be OK ... because at least we'll be busy.
But if you look at truly successful people, they aren't running around frantically proclaiming how busy and overwhelmed they are. Truly successful leaders are skilled at delegating, prioritizing and focusing only on the most critical tasks.
So why is everyone else running around stuck in the "busy trap"? And, more importantly, how can we get out!? Here are six mindsets that keep us stuck in the busy trap, and suggestions for how we can find a little more freedom:
1. We want an "A" for effort so we over-prepare.
We tend to believe that success requires a herculean effort and burning the midnight oil. We make things hard to prove that our work is valuable, to earn a gold star. However, making a time sacrifice does not always equal better results. In fact, it often shows that we're afraid our work is not inherently valuable or worthy.
So take responsibility by asking yourself, "Does this really require a herculean effort or am I seeking approval?" Consider the alternative: what if you didn't prepare as much for a given meeting or presentation? What might it be like to give yourself time and space for creativity?
2. We need criticism to motivate.
Many of us believe that we need to be hard on ourselves in order to get things done. Pushing ourselves is one thing; but there is a difference between healthy striving and unhealthy perfectionism.
Research shows that self-compassion actually increases willpower. In one research study, participants who practiced self-appreciation were four times more likely to resist eating a piece of cake than those who used shame. And, the control group — who just got cake with no message — was twice as likely to resist versus the shame-triggered group. This means it is better to take no action than to criticize yourself. Self-criticism is an extremely poor motivator, as it turns out.
Ask yourself a very simple question: "Is this really necessary?" Can you trust yourself without cracking the whip? Practice self-compassion by saying "I'm only human." Try this self-compassion tool kit to strengthen your self-compassion muscles.
3. We think having no time is a status symbol.
Busy has become a sign of prestige and something people brag about. When we use being busy as a status symbol, we are holding the egocentric belief that "I am busy, therefore I am important."
Try to notice if you're bragging to people about how busy you are as if it's a good thing. Reframe this belief by telling yourself "Successful people are not busy. They know how to prioritize and enjoy free time."
4. We falsely believe that multitasking is effective.
Scientific studies prove multi-tasking is ineffective. In today's tech heavy world, we don't focus on discrete tasks and we do too many things at once. Not only does this make everything take longer than necessary, our results are not as good as if we just did one thing at a time. We also aren't efficient or effective when we stay seated too long. Are you spinning your wheels on many things without completing anything? Is your attention dispersed?
5. We say that we work better under pressure.
We create a time crunch on ourselves by procrastinating, leaving late so we're rushing, and waiting until the last minute to do something. Start to question your belief, "I have to be stressed to get things done." Instead, ask yourself, "Am I creating an unnecessary sense of urgency?" How can you create more space for yourself in a given situation?
6. We avoid seeking help from others.
We take on too much and then we become exhausted and ineffective. We don't outsource enough.
You can shift the pattern. Notice if you're saying, "What will other people think if I ask for help?" or "I should be able to do this myself." The best of the best delegate. They do not worry about what others think; and they never tell themselves what they "should" do. Always consider whether you are using your time in the best way possible.
Arianna Huffington tells a great story about how one way to cross something off your "To Do List" is simply NOT to do it. For years, every time Huffington's family went on a ski trip, she would feel bad because she had "learn to ski" on her "To Do List." Then she realized she didn't really even want to learn to ski. So she simply took "learn to ski" off her list, and everyone was happier. And you can be, too.